Leave the isolation behind - come back to your life: Virtual reality for seniors

Laura Diez

Startup Stories

As mobility and flexibility become more limited in old age, the radius of action shrinks and daily impressions become fewer. Granny Vision wants to bring a breath of fresh air into old heads with Virtual Reality (VR). The founding team Carolina and Daniel Bendlin have realised that seniors can participate more in life in general and in the everyday life of their families with the help of Extended Reality. Even if they live in a retirement home."We allow seniors to travel again, bring back memories of what they have experienced and let them be closer to their families. This not only brings a breath of fresh air into everyday life, but also keeps the mind fit and improves self-esteem. The few concepts that go in a similar direction mostly come from the clinical field. However, we want to provide exciting content for seniors as a whole. Especially with the private content, which doesn't even exist in this form yet," says founder Daniel Bendlin in an interview with 5-HT. 

"It is never too late for beautiful experiences". 

Technologies around virtual reality are being used more and more. Virtual reality is designed to enable older people to experience things with VR glasses that they can no longer experience in real life due to their physical or mental condition. For example, a walk in the woods or on the beach, a visit to the opera or a bus ride through Rome. 

"We are also working at the moment on enabling relatives to create their own content in 360-degree format and play it on the older person's glasses," Bendlin explains. Using a 360-degree camera, for example, relatives can take photos or videos themselves, which are then played on the glasses. "There are 360-degree photos and videos, we almost don't use videos anymore, because such a 360-degree image is almost half a video," says Bendlin. 

Audio tracks and classic digital photos can also be included. This way, the senior can experience the family celebration or holiday from home and reminisce over and over again. With VR glasses, we let seniors travel, play, learn and relax. Relatives also have the opportunity to let grandparents take part in holidays, family celebrations or everyday situations up close and in 360° via VR. The possibilities are huge!"

Granny Vision founding Team Daniel and Carolina Bendlin

The VR glasses in use - a panoramic image times ten 

Granny Vision's VR glasses work autonomously and are light, comfortable and easy to use. At the moment, these are the Oculus Go and Pico G2 4K models.

At the beginning, the senior should only use the VR glasses under supervision, as it is a very intense, new experience, especially at the beginning. Because, as soon as the glasses are put on, the senior is completely sealed off visually from the outside. "The big advantage compared to a screen or a normal photo is that you don't just see what the photographer or cameraman wants you to see, but you really have a 360-degree experience all around - like a panoramic picture times ten," Bendlin explains.

That means the senior can look up with the glasses to see the sky. Turn around to see what's behind him, and look around to the left and right. Let's take the flat as an example: the 360-degree photo is taken in the middle of the room. When I look at the picture through the VR glasses, I can't move around in this flat, but I can turn around, look up and down and thus get a complete picture of the flat.

The whole thing is a bit different from virtual space. We also built a virtual living room. In the virtual space, you teleport from one point to another and thus have a different angle.

Granny Vision´s virtual living room

The goal always depends on the personality and also the stage of physical and mental fitness of the senior citizens. There are seniors who say I want to regain exactly this independence and decide independently how and when to use the glasses. The whole procedure is relatively simple. Of course, there are also seniors who either can no longer or no longer want to do this independently, in which case a carer or relative should take the senior by the hand and support them in using the VR glasses.

We make sure to only use content that does not cause motion sickness. However, every person is unique and individual. What is good for one person is not necessarily good for another. Therefore, it is important that whenever the user feels uncomfortable or even experiences dizziness, he or she takes off the glasses and leaves the application.

Suitable for use in both residential care facilities and in the private sector, online and offline. 

In principle, the Granny Vision System can be used both in care facilities and in the private sphere. In the care sector, VR glasses are usually used by several users, but if the senior also wants to be able to see personalised content, such as family photos, audios or other private content that relatives have created for the senior, it is advisable to have one pair of glasses per senior.

The fact that most of the applications also allow the user to move or look around using a controller makes the Granny Vision System a nice change of pace, especially for bedridden users.

The VR glasses are prepared by Granny Vision in such a way that the user has a comprehensive 360-degree experience even when using them offline. By connecting to wi-fi, the user gets access to even more content. However, a connection to the wi-fi is also necessary (at least from time to time) for possible updates or the integration of personalised content. A cable connection to a PC is not necessary at any time.

Senior using the VR glasses independently

A major challenge: innovative concepts concerning healthcare

"The Corona-related bans on visits to care facilities and the cancellation of the two leading trade fairs were definitely challenging in terms of sales," reports Bendlin.

"With Granny Vision, we have a product that you have to experience. This feeling of self-determination that the seniors get with the help of the VR glasses is of course very difficult to describe. But the instruction of the VR glasses via a video call worked surprisingly well," laughs Bendlin.

"A general challenge is that only a small proportion of care facilities have the will or the possibilities to introduce new concepts in their facilities. Only rarely is this due to the budget, but mostly to the mindset towards new and innovative concepts.

The past weeks and months have definitely increased the sensitivity for technology in care facilities, because digital aids can improve the daily care routine and the quality of life of seniors enormously.

We believe that older people can gain more self-determination, satisfaction and joy through the use of digital tools. For this, we take them by the hand and show them: Nobody is too old for something new!"

A step into the future with 5-HT Digital Hub 

"Our drive at Granny Vision has always been to bring positive emotions to older people. We do this mainly in virtual reality. The walk in the woods, the orchestra, the city trip or impressions of family celebrations can be experienced up close again. In addition to virtual reality, we also offer individual digital courses for senior citizens.

There is a great need for us to work together with doctors to use VR glasses as a therapy. We get very positive feedback from the care facilities and would like to take a well-founded look at the therapeutic use of VR glasses with a scientific partner in the future. It is important for us to get to know the relevant players from the 5-HT network. We are looking forward to getting in touch with important players in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry to pave the way for new technologies, such as the use of Virtual Reality in care. 5-HT offers us an exceptional network and we look forward to being an active part of it."

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